Devy Ferdianto, the master behind print-making and titled as Mr.Miyagi of Black Hand Gang and the founder of Devto Printmaking Institute, the print-making studio that is striving to pave the way for young artists and making the art of prints more accessible in Indonesia. Who knows this man who was a lecturer in ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandung) also loves music as much as visual art! Read below for our interview with Devy Ferdianto.
How was the transition from being a lecturer to a master-print?
I started teaching in 1991 as a junior lecturer until 2017. That year in 2017, I started to feel burned out and I wanted to just have a break. Then, I went to Jakarta and worked together with Lina. From there, I happened to move to Bali. Honestly, I always wanted to have a studio in Bali but I didn’t know if I could move pretty soon. So it just happened naturally.
So it was like the calling?
Yeah, sort of. It was a calling.
Tell us how you come up with BHG
Well, we started building in January last year (2020), but we had planned it from August 2019. One of our partners here, David, was looking for a managing director for a gallery. However, he also wanted to have a print-making studio as he was very thrilled about it. So, he offered to work together with me and we had several discussions, although at that time we had know idea where this studio was going to take place. Then in January, everything began.
What’s the idea behind BHG and what is your vision of this print-making studio?
If I could call it, BHG is a studio – the only open studio in Indonesia. We put ourselves as an editioning – commissioning studio, publisher, and workshop. We are working to empower local Balinese. We’re learning to be a respective, professional, with proper equipment studio. We want to be the hub for printmaking in Indonesia.
How do you see art prints in Indonesia as it seems like many collectors are more into paintings?
Ya… I think it is a classic problem. Printmaking is not as popular as other forms of art and collectors are hesitating to collect printed works, collectors also have no idea about printmaking. Then, the education in Indonesia is not proper enough as seen from the equipment and educators. There is not enough discourse and education on print-making. When there is not enough education about it, there is no respect for it. This has always been the challenge; how we can educate collectors, journalists, and students – that graphic work has a value. This is our never-ending challenge. We do not just need the intervention from the governments, but also our own interventions as an industry. We need to take action. We need to have passion.
Why are the collectors hesitant to collect prints?
Because of the humidity here. But, that’s not the main case. It’s the material in the prints as not all of them use good material. So we always have to import it and the materials become expensive once they arrive here since there is not enough demand. While, artists do not have the money to afford them and they start using cheap materials like wood-based papers. This makes the print get damaged easier compared to if we use cotton-based papers, let’s say. That’s only from the paper, let alone the ink. In BHG, we use proper material and equipment and that’s our base to create high-quality work. It is humid here, but if you know how to handle it, then you don’t have to worry. This is what we need to educate people. That’s why we have weekly Instagram live where you can learn about print-making and a master-class program.
What’s interesting from prints in your perspective?
Wah, I never get bored with graphic work! First, if you make a painting, you can only make one. But with prints, you can make one – but they’re all multi-original copies. They are not reproduction. From every time we make one print, there’s always different energy, different feelings, because it’s all by hand. Second, the techniques are amazing! It’s just so many. As a printer, a master-printer, maybe I wouldn’t be able to master all techniques. Then, there are unexpected results! Third one, the size is very versatile and relatively smaller than paintings. It’s easier to collect, transport, and it is more affordable, accessible. So young people have the chance to be collectors too. Fourth, from a technical perspective, you can totally feel it with all sense. There is a difference when you see litograph, silk-screen work, etching because of different ink and technique that creates various textures.
How is the role of print making for the environment?
Traditionally, print-making is not eco-conscious, many materials are toxic and can result in cancer. In BHG, we use water-based ink, like the one for our silk-screen. The handling too for water-based ink is easier, it won’t clog the paper. We try to make our techniques more eco-friendly.
How do you see the dynamic in Bali – in terms of art?
I think young artists in Bali have a lot of potential as they have more exposed to more diverse people – compared to other islands. Young Balinese artists too have their own root too, they have excellent carving, painting technique…
They make Ogoh-Ogoh too since they’re young?
Ya, Balinese are natural in both 2D and 3D.
By the way, any places you’d recommend in Bali?
Not much I guess. Wah, my family and I, we love cooking so we don’t really eat outside. Of course the places where we eat the first time is Babi Guling but that’s not my favorite. I think my favorite is Leka-Leke and Kagemusha in Nyuh Kuning.